ERC estimates that the cross-border line, which links the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa to the neighbouring country of Djibouti, has suffered a reduction in revenue of around Birr 114m ($US 2.95m) during the first quarter of the current fiscal year due to the damage.

End-to-end journey times have also increased by six hours to 18 hours, with serious reductions in average train speeds, from 80 to 50km/h.

Vandalism and theft are particularly severe in Sebeta, Lume, Adama, Bosot, Fentale, Mieso, and the Bordode - Dewale section.

During a day-long forum held in Adama in the state of Oromia on December 5, Mr Tilahun Serka, CEO of ERC said that although the railway has erected around 60km of fences along the line in areas where incidents of theft are high, alternative solutions are required due to the financial limitations of fencing the entire line.

The line currently carries around 25% of Ethiopian import and export freight to the Port of Djibouti, which handles between 90% and 95% of Ethiopia’s total international trade. More than 462,000 tonnes of freight was carried on the line during the first quarter of the fiscal year, including fertilisers, wheat, metal and other goods.

The line opened in 2018, and replaced the older metre-gauge Ethio-Djibouti Railway, and is electrified at 25kV ac. Construction began in 2015 and was carried out by the China Communication Construction Company (CCCC) under a $US 1.5bn contract awarded by the Ethiopian government in 2012. Around 70% of the $US 4bn line was funded using loans from the Export-Import Bank of China (EXIM).